The Mersey Bar Lightship Planet could yet be coming home to Liverpool, following an 11th hour decision to put its controversial sale on hold

The famous bright red vessel, which for decades acted as a safe beacon for Mersey mariners, was seized in October from Canning Dock and tugged 200 miles away in a row over unpaid mooring fees. 

It was put up for sale by the Canal and Waterways Authority which towed the Planet to Gloucestershire, prompting fears of it ending up as scrap and sparking an outcry from local MPs and historians.

The deadline for offers, in the region of £100,000 - more than half of it to cover the authority's recovery expenses - passed last Friday. 

Now Jonathan Brown, of the Merseyside Civic Society, says he is optimistic the "Lantern on the Mersey" will eventually return home from Gloucestershire.

Race against time to save The Planet

Brown told Liverpool Confidential today: "I have spoken with Louise Ellman (Liverpool Riverside MP) and with the trust and the disposal of the vessel has been put on hold. It gives us time to come up with some realistic proposals to return the Planet to Liverpool.

"We had feared that the lovely Planet had been grabbed by the equivalent of a repo man, to be lost forever to Liverpool. Now following pressure from the public and the local MPs, it seems we have a good chance to seeing the Planet back home."

Last week, when news of the imminent sale was revealed by Liverpool Confidential, Mrs Ellman, chairman of Parliament’s Transport Committee, wrote to the trust.

The Planet is towed out of Liverpool. Pics by Angie SammonsThe Planet is towed out of Liverpool. Pics by Angie Sammons

Derek Twigg, the Labour MP for Halton, then asked the C&RT for an investigation into why the trust believed it appropriate to tow the vessel to Gloucester, adding that the Planet was an "important part of Liverpool's maritime heritage".

In a letter to Allan Leighton, chairman of authority, he said: "I fully support the campaign to save the Planet...I would be grateful if you could respond to concerns and indicate whether the sale of the River Mersey Lightship will be halted so that the vessel can be returned to its home in Liverpool."

Liverpool West Derby MP Stephen Twigg and Wirral South MP Alison McGovern, whose grandfather wrote the famous ballad In My Liverpool Home, also joined the rallying cry.

Brown said: “The Planet is a rich and powerful piece of Liverpool’s maritime history, and given that we gained our World Heritage Status directly because of our maritime legacy, the waterfront is the natural home for the much loved lightship.

"The docks need to be inhabited by boats, particularly those with strong links to our shipping history. When there are plenty of sailing ships in the dock system it draws the crowds to our waterfront and brings the place to life. The Planet deserves to be part of that."

He added: "We are not out of the woods, or rather the water, but I feel more hopeful today than I did last week.

"This is a great Christmas present for everyone interested in the maritime history of our city."